The role of family hubs in delivering relationship support
As a member of the Parliamentary Advisory Board for Andrea Leadsom's Early Years Healthy Development Review, I took a particular interest in the work surrounding ‘Family Hubs’, where families can access all sorts of support in the heart of their local community, but where they can also build relationships with other families. As a mother of three, I know just how much I benefitted from the support received through my local community and I want every family to have the same opportunities as my family did.
Family Hubs can provide a one-stop-shop for new parents. A local hub could be a place where parents can see health visitors, find out about playgroups, access parenting support, find out about other help, such as debt advice, and even where parents could register their baby’s birth.
Speaking in the Education Committee I was able to ask the Minister for Children and Families, Will Quince, about the particular role of the Education Department in ensuring family hubs deliver effective relationship support.
Education Committee: December 1
Miriam Cates: "Just to declare an interest, I have been on the parliamentary advisory board for the Leadsom review, so I am absolutely delighted with the family hubs announcement.
The UK has the highest family breakdown rate in the OECD, I believe, and that disproportionately affects children in poorer families. In the poorest families, only 47% of under-fives live with both parents, whereas the proportion is 85% in the higher income brackets. One of the asks we have of family hubs is to provide relationship support. Obviously, if we can keep more couples together, it will have an impact on the outcomes in terms of education and mental health. Particularly for boys, having a male role model is proven to be very important. How do you see family hubs delivering that? What role will the Department play in making sure that they do deliver it, and that it is not an option that some family hubs choose and others do not?"
Will Quince: "It is a really good question. I agree with you on the importance of male role models, which unfortunately are lacking in too many families. We will not be overly prescriptive, but most local authorities will include parenting support, which will be DfE-provided within the family hub model. We want the family hubs to be as inclusive and wide-ranging as possible. For example, the Department for Work and Pensions has the reducing parental conflict programme, which was briefly part of my portfolio when I was first appointed Minister. That is exactly the sort of programme, being part digital and part face-to-face, that could be delivered through the family hub model. The other thing about family hubs is that they are not just for the nought to fives, as Sure Start centres were; they are for the whole family, including much older children and young people. It is very important that, wherever possible, we get the father or the male figure in the family involved. Although we will not prescribe it, personally I would like to see other things. Why couldn’t a family hub centre, for example, be the place where you go to register the birth? That is one of the few occasions when the dad has to go, because he has to if he wants to be on the birth certificate. I want local authorities and other Government Departments and agencies to start thinking about, “How can we fit in and slot in to a family hub model?” and make it a brilliant one-stop shop for families in communities to get all the support they need in one place, so they don’t have to tell multiple agencies and Government Departments their whole life story every time they need support or want to access services."
Miriam Cates: "I have just one more question. The spending review gives a relatively short period of time to prove the success of a significant change, but I know the Government intend to roll it out more widely if it is successful. I asked the Prime Minister that in PMQs last week, and he confirmed it, which is brilliant. What measures will you use to determine whether they have been successful, given that relatively short proving period for something so significant?"
Will Quince: "That is a really good question. We have two things. I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister announce our ambition to extend it to the whole country—at the moment, we have funding for just over half. We built into the initial transformation an evaluation innovation fund, to build the evidence base. The 12 trailblazer sites, alongside Essex and others that are already doing this really well, will help us to build that evidence base. The challenge to all the local authorities in putting their bids together is to be bold, be ambitious, show us what can be done, because there is no greater tool in my arsenal than going to the Treasury and saying, “Look what can be achieved because local authorities are doing this on the ground. Let’s have the additional money now to roll it out to the rest of the country.” The onus is on local authorities to give me the evidence needed to roll it out across the whole country."
The Education Committee scrutinises the work of the Department for Education, covering children’s social care, schools, colleges, the early years and higher education. The Committee also holds regular hearings with DfE’s arms-length bodies, including Ofsted, Ofqual and the Children’s Commissioner.